So I'm a newbie and I was finally able to successfully crank out a small San Mai billet of 1084 core and 15N20 by hand. I was excited to see what I could do with it after looking at work by guys like Josh Fisher. I profiled the knife, put bevels on it, then threw it in ferric for the test etch which revealed a pretty neat pattern.
I decided I'd like it to be fairly nice looking, being that it is my first San Mai blade, so I took it up to 3k grit with hand sanding. I then followed etching processes that I had researched, with very bad results in the ferric. The acid left the surface of the blade dingy and dirty looking. I switched to a less aggressive etchant, lemon juice with a drop of dish soap. The lemon juice seemed to leave the 15N20 a bit brighter and the 1084 a little cleaner. This is where I started having problems on the finish of the knife. Since I am so new I do not have a lot of experience with etchants and etching processes even though I have researched a lot online. When etching in lemon juice, I tried several rounds, rubbing with steel wool in between, then cleaning, then re-etching. I also tried several rounds using mother's mag polish in place of the steel wool. Both seemed to give the same result, wiping away the contrast between the 1084 and 15n20.
After doing this several times, I couldn't tell what it was doing or when it was supposed to end so I abandoned it and decided to do my "final etch". It looked great out of the etchant, so I flooded the blade with Windex to neutralize the acid. When I wiped the blade it left lots of streaks on the finish.
When oiling and attempting to remove the streaks, they didn't go anywhere. After oiling I used my thumb to try to rub the streaks away. When I rubbed the darker finish of the 1084, the dark grey turned to a very light dull grey and my thumb was dark. My question is, is there something wrong with my process? It seemed to get the best results as far as contrast, but it doesn't seem like the contrast is permanent if the dark finish of the 1084 can just rub off. I am very inexperienced, I welcome and greatly appreciate any advice, guidance or criticism on making this blade stand out! Thanks in advance